'Off the record, who is it?'
He hesitates. 'I don't see why you need to know.'
But he does see, of course.
'It's my son.'
Their chuckles are audible over the speakerphone. 'Are you serious?'
Lloyd Burko is having troubles with his sources, with his technology at the paper, and with his family. The Imperfectionists is a novel about the peculiar people who write and read an international newspaper based in Rome: from the obituary reporter who will do anything to avoid work, to the dog-obsessed publisher who seems less interested in his struggling newspaper than in his magnificent basset hound, Schopenhauer. While the news of the day rushes past, the true front-page stories for all of them are the blunders and triumphs of their own lives.
Tom Rachman's debut novel is beautifully written, intelligent, and makes us care about people who are both flawed and immensely engaging—about their lives, their families, and about the larger family that is their newspaper.
The Imperfectionists touches on the fall of newspapers and the rise of technology but, above all, it is a wise and moving novel about unusual, endearing characters.
- Publication Date:
- 01 / 05 / 2014
- 128 x 200 x 19mm
A brilliant debut.
The Imperfectionists is the first novel by British-born journalist and author, Tom Rachman. Set in late 2006 and early 2007, each of eleven chapters is like a vignette of the lives of particular characters who are, in some way, associated with the Rome-based International English-Language newspaper that was founded in 1953 by successful Atlanta businessman, Cyrus Ott. The alternate chapters detail significant events in the newspaperâ€™s history.
While the main plot is straightforward: the creation and eventual demise of the publication; there is a myriad of sub-plots involving the various characters, so that each of those chapters is almost a short story itself, involving some characters from the other chapters. This is reminiscent of Rohinton Mistryâ€™s Swimming Lessons (Tales from Firosha Baag).
Rachman gives the reader a cast of quirky characters: a mild-mannered obituary writer whose superior shows such a lack of compassion at his personal tragedy that it elicits a vengeful response; a business editor who finds herself forsaking friends, family and her own values so as not to be single; a young stringer stranded in Cairo with no idea of how to report; a corrections editor who finally learns the truth about an idolised friend; a dying writer resigned to her fate; a jaded Paris correspondent reaching desperation point; a reluctant young heir whose closest relationship is with his basset hound; a faithful reader who lives in the past, avoiding a certain fateful day; a publisher who founds a paper for the sake of unrequited love; a dreary news editor who forces his own worst fear to eventuate; an editor-in-chief who looks for a lover and finds a much-needed friend; a copy editor who feels excluded, persecuted and on the brink of redundancy; and a financial officer whose unwise decision sees her humiliated.
Rachman involves his characters in the petty politics, conflicts and occasional charitable acts that make up a busy workplace and comprise everyday life. He gives them words of wisdom: â€œWe enjoy this illusion of continuity and we call it memory. Which explains, perhaps, why our worst fear isnâ€™t the end of life, but the end of memoriesâ€ and â€˜Nothing in all civilisation has been as productive as ludicrous ambition. Whatever its ills, nothing has created more. Cathedrals, sonatas, encyclopedias: love of God was not behind them, nor love of life. But the love of man to be worshipped by man.â€ He gives them throw away lines: â€œJournalism is a bunch of dorks pretending to be alpha malesâ€ and â€œI suspect that revenge is one of those things thatâ€™s better in principle than in practiceâ€¦thereâ€™s no real satisfaction in making someone else suffer because you haveâ€
This novel is often funny, sometimes sad, and the reader will be moved to reflect on the ultimate fate of print newspapers in todayâ€™s world. A brilliant debut.